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June 2024

Med Anthropol. 1993 Apr; 15(2): 137-56.

Fallen fontanelle: culture-bound or cross-cultural?

Kay MA.

College of Nursing, University of Arizona, Tucson 85715.

Rather than bound to one culture, fallen fontanelle has been labeled as an illness or recognized as a symptom through time and space. The condition may be called siriasus, sitibundum, fontanellae collapsus, el apostema cálido del cerebro, Blatfallen, Blattschiessen, entzndung des Gehirns und der Gehirnhute der Kleinen Kinder, coup de soleil, sorte de maladie causée par l'inflammation des membranes du cerveau, head-mould-shot, mollera caída, desmollerado, gual, split skull, sutt, nhova, kubabula, chipande, phogwana and dehydration. Defining features of this condition as well as prevention and treatment have corresponded to the specific cultural setting and ethnographic present. Fallen fontanelle (or fontanel) is "a culturally interpreted symptom rather than culture-bound" (Low 1985). The methodological perspective is an ethnohistorical recounting of change in the meaning of this symptom.

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